Naturally Advanced Technologies Inc, producer of the Crailar fibre made from flax and other bast fibres, is getting closer to its first full phase of production and says improvements in its cycle time open up new opportunities for third-party manufacturing.

The Crailar technology turns bast fibres into white fibres similar to cotton using a patented enzyme bath - and the company describes as a "milestone" improvements that reduce the enzymatic process time by 40%.

This reduction not only speeds the fibre cycle time but also increases production capacity.

"Intended as a strategic initiative that would maximise the volume capability of our first facility this year, it's now apparent that the improvements in efficiency and resultant economics of our Crailar process allows us to consider third party manufacturing as a critical option in our expansion plans," said NAT CEO Ken Barker.

"This move would be consistent with most other branded global industries, where outsourced manufacturing allows for faster expansion of the technology proposition and resulting brand message for our partners, while significantly reducing the capital requirements to scale up to meet demand."

The first new partnership has already been inked with Cartersville, Georgia based textile dyer Tintoria Piana, which will begin production in the second quarter of this year.

NAT has also invested $8m in a facility in Pamplico, South Carolina, which will process locally grown flax.

HanesBrands, Georgia-Pacific and Hong Kong-based knitwear manufacturer Brilliant Global Ltd have already signed up to use the new cotton-like Crailar fibre, while Levi Strauss, Cintas, Carhartt, Ashland, Westex, and Target are looking at its potential.